How mindfulness shifted my mind: the 14th of March

The past twenty years, my teenage and early adult years have been extremely difficult for me and my family since my Dad tragically passed away from cancer in 1999. He was only 47 years old. Over those years, I managed somehow. I got by. Additional struggles, to do with school and work arrived. Being constantly judged, being told that you are good but not good enough is not helpful when you are trying to make sense of living. But I managed.

I moved to another country, started from scratch and got two degrees. Got jobs. Made friends. I was not happy. I thought that life will never be as good.

Having left my previous job as I realized that it was not for me I was, emotionally, in a difficult place. This time, the Universe really did me a massive favour. I was referred by my GP to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and attended full eight sessions. Then, as a long term patient of Centre for Integrative care, I was referred to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course. Even though to attend the course I had to travel for over two hours each week, I decided that it would be worth it. I have been doing some yoga since a very young age and practicing regularly for the past 12 years. I have also been doing some meditation. But my ‘here and there’ ad hoc approach to yoga and meditation was not enough to shift my mindset. The requirement of this course was to, where possible, meditate daily for twelve weeks. And I did that. This was crucial to success.

Each week, we practiced a new form of meditation. We were also required to keep a diary and describe what worked for us and what did not. I really enjoyed giving my mind this special time every day. I learned how to eat mindfully when we did the Raisin exercise. I love good food but I have always been guilty of eating too fast. Additionally, when I was a teenager, after I lost my Dad I also often engaged in comfort eating, which resulted in eating humongous portions. And now, I definitely appreciate raisins more than I used to!

I also learned how to give my body this special time, via practising The Body Scan. After each session of the Body Scan, I felt amazing. I really felt how the negative energy I held in my body disappeared as I breathed from the top of my head, all the way through my body and through my toes.

The course involved a silent session which for us took place on the 13 March. During the session, we had to remain silent during the preparation for the session, which involved setting our space for relaxation. We also had to remain silent during the mindful walking in the garden and during the tea break. Normally, during the tea break, we shared our experiences from the morning session. I believe that this silent session was the exact moment that prepared me for what happened the next day and truly shifted my mind.

The next day, on the 14th of March, I was working from home ( I already had a new job by this point). The first news I heard that day was that Stephen Hawking died. Not long after my mum came round and told me that my Grandad passed away. I did not cry. I could not cry. I did not want to cry either. I did not cry even when I went to his funeral a few days later. I was ready to have a panic attack during the funeral. My Grandad’s grave is located right next to my Dad’s grave, so I thought this will be it, all the memories from my Dad’s funeral will come back. However, the exact opposite happened. I remained completely calm during the ceremony and after and I did not cry. Of course, I was sad that Grandad passed away, that he is no longer here. But mindfulness taught me to accept life, to take it as it comes.

Today is the 14 March again and the circle of life continues to spin around as I am awaiting the arrival of my baby. While waiting, I painted the below artwork.

Abstract artwork

Looking back into 2018…

Deep snow

Last year we had it. We had a proper winter. The biggest I have experienced since I came to the UK 14 years ago. Why am I writing about the Beast from the East only now? Well, the past 12 months have been very busy. I worked full time in HR and opening the computer on return home was the last thing I could think of. At the weekends, on the other hand, I preferred to spend time outdoors and also had to catch up with everything else I was not able to do during the week. Now, I have some time to myself. I am currently on annual leave, waiting for the arrival of my baby due to come on the 10 March. See you soon baby!

So, looking back just before the Beast from the East hit us, we went on a trip up north. We stayed in Tomintoul, visited Newtonmore and on the way back visited Loch Garten. The ancient Caledonian pine forest stretches along the loch. The day was absolutely gorgeous. It felt like spring. Here is a picture.

Loch Garten ancient pine forest

A week later, I felt like I was on a different planet. In fact, I did not think that I would ever experience a proper winter in Scotland. Living where we live, in the countryside, I felt blessed. I was able to work from home and enjoy the snow. Having grown up in Poland, I am used to proper winters. And luckily, I can bake bread. There was a couple of days when going to the shops was out of the question. The wildlife was not having the best time though. Once the roads were manageable (in a 4 wheeled drive) we took a drive and spotted a barn owl searching for food at midday. Normally, you only see them at night time. It was extremely busy on the feeders in our garden. Goldfinches came back, there was a flock of long-tailed tits. There was a bullfinch. Blue tits, cold tits, great tits, chaffinches and sparrows, they were all there. Even the blackbirds who don’t normally go near the feeders were eating peanuts.

Here is a photo showing birds on the feeders

And here is a short video where it looks like it will never stop snowing!




My first article published on Travelista.club


It’s time to celebrate! I had my first article, From Cape St.Vincent To the Beach: Tour around Algarve published on an external website, Travelista.club! Please have a look at my article about our trip to Algarve in Portugal. It describes a few beaches and tourists attractions we visited. My partner and I love going on road trips and when we travel abroad, we rarely stay in the same place for more than 3 days. We also love eating nice food. As I do most of the cooking in, it is always a nice break for me when I don’t have to do it.

This was my third time in Portugal and I will definitely go back!

Maggie at Cape St Vincent
Me at Cape St.Vincent

The long-tailed tits

The goldfinch came back again. This time, it did not spend as much time on the feeder as during the past couple of days. And it did not argue so much with other birds, he let them have some nuts too.

After the goldfinch left, our usual visitors also disappeared maybe apart from a couple of chaffinches and sparrows. However, there were some new guests: a group of fourteen long-tailed tits. Hopefully, one day I will be able to take a photo of them. They are very distinctive and always come in groups. This time there was fourteen of them. British Bird Lovers website has a nice picture of a long-tailed tit.

The goldfinch came back

The goldfinch was back on the feeder. It was alone again and spent there quite a lot of time. Eventually, the woodpecker came and threw him off the feeder. So it patiently waited on the tree but then went back on to the feeder. Little blue tits were trying to get some nuts, but he kept pushing them off and flapping its wings. It must have been really hungry. And the same happened again. A woodpecker, this time a different one made it get off the feeder. It left. I wonder if it will be be back?

The blue moon and a goldfinch

The unusual blue moon, the second full moon in a month happened yesterday but it was too cloudy to be able to see it. However, this morning the moon was still very big and this is what it looked like where I live:

Moon over a field
With this unusual moon, came a very strong wind. And there was a little cute guest on a bird feeder, a goldfinch. Unfortunately, I did not manage to take a picture of it, but if you don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, there is one on Wikipedia. Goldfinch is a truly beautiful bird, with a red beak and face and yellow- black wings. I really need a camera trap to be able to capture all the amazing birds we get on the feeder. Unusually, it visited us by itself. Every other time goldfinches came as a group of at least four. It stayed on the feeder munching nuts for a long time. This made me think that it must have been very hungry. I wandered, why? Why was it so hungry and why did it come by itself… It is gone now. Hopefully, it is all right. Maybe it just got confused by the second blue moon this month.

Horses at Traprain Law

If you like horses and nice views you should get yourself to Traprain Law.     The hill is a volcanic rock. It does not take long to walk to the top  and as you walk, you will never be alone there, thanks to Exmoor ponies. Those beautiful creatures have been introduced there to graze and and help with improvement of the quality of grassland.

Horses Traprain Law
Horses at Traprain Law

They seem pretty friendly but I would not go too close to them. They might have been brought here by humans but they are still wild animals!

This is a fantastic project set up by a charity and you can find out more about it in this article

Keep walking to the top to see the whole of East Lothian… It is really worth it!

 

The view from Traprain Law
The view from Traprain Law

Uags Bothy

This was my first ever bothy trip. Toscaig was a start point of our walk to Uags bothy.  My boyfriend and I arrived there at 8 15 pm after a long journey through windy highland roads and parked the car. While we tried to minimize the size of our bags as much as possible and carried only necessities, they were still quite heavy. We aimed to get to the bothy before it would get dark.  The first part of the path was very boggy until it eventually disappeared.  Once we passed through it, we walked through moorlands and rocks. After around an hour and a half, we took a break, which did not last very long as we were getting eaten alive by the midges. Even the midge nets did not help as they were biting through them. It was starting to get dark and we were getting worried that we would not get to the bothy before the nightime. We had our tent with us just in case, but with either a boggy or a rocky terrain everywhere, it would have been pretty difficult to find a  good spot for camping. So we continued walking with hope of finding the bothy, admiring beautiful rock formations.

Eventually, we found the precious European oak woodland, which according to the map, meant that we were not far away from the bothy. As we came out of the forest, we looked down the hill. There was the bothy! We made it ! It was already pitch black and we could not even see how far from the sea we were. As we opened the door, a voice shouted at us: ‘What time do you call this?’ There were a couple of guys already in the bothy. One of them gave up his day job to travel around UK bothies sleeping in a hammock . The other guy was fireman who used to be a tree surgeon and arrived to the bothy on a sea kayak. Sea kayaking is something I have never tried before but would really like to.  It was an interesting evening, it is always great to meet like – minded people. As I went outside, all I could see was flashing eyes of deer, which were not far away.

The next day we woke up and went outside to have breakfast at a wooden table while looking at Eilean Mor and Raasay in the distance. After breakfast, we walked to the Northern beach. It was a glorious day and the sun was shining. I went for a dip in the sea but did not stay there for very long as there were jelly fish swimming around.  Once I came out, we sat there enjoying the perfect moment and the beautiful surroundings. It was my boyfriend’s birthday. As he said:

‘If only we could now see a sea eagle, this would make my birthday special’ a sea eagle appeared, flying above our heads and doing a little dance just for us.  This really made this day special and he could not have asked for a better birthday present. Later on, we went to explore the area a little more and enjoyed the sunshine.

View from Uags bothy

The next day, as we were packing to leave, another sea kayaker arrived. He said that he was a keeper of the bothy and that he came to pick up the rubbish. We were going to take the rubbish with us, so it was a great relief, knowing that we would have less to carry on the way back! We left the bothy around midday.  It must have been more than 25 degrees and I was wearing shorts and a sleevles top. I was starting to get sunburnt, so covered myself with a towel, as I did not have a thin long- sleeved top with me. Who would have thought that you can get sunburnt in Scotland!

Here is a little live photo – where you can see the view from Uags bothy

…and a picture of the bothy below

View of Uags bothy
Uags bothy

 

What an amazing idea mountain bothies are…They are free and for everyone. It feels so special being able to stay in a house in the middle of nowhere and have a fire on at night. Thank you for all those lovely volunteers and responsible tourists who help looking after the bothies. Will definitely visit more of them.